The King’s Maiesties Declaration to His Subjects concerning lawfull Sports to be used.

London, Robert Barker, 1633.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. (iv) 18. A-C⁴. First leaf blank but for signature-mark “A” in part of a woodcut frame, lacking last blank C4. Large Italic letter. Woodcut ornament on t-p, at heads of dedication and text, full page cut of Royal arms on t-p verso, note in a near contemporary hand explaining the contents of the work on “A”. Light age yellowing, recto of first leaf dusty, the odd thumb mark or spot, cut a little close in upper margin just touching page numbers. A very good copy crisp and clean in modern boards.

In 1618 James I, travelling back from Scotland to London ‘Found that his subjects were debarred from Lawful Recreations upon Sundayes after evening prayer ended, and upon Holy dayes.’ James was concerned that ‘the meaner sort who labour hard all the weeke, should have no Recreations at all to refresh their spirits.’ but also that the prohibition of legitimate recreation would both ‘set up filthy tiplings and drunkennesse’ and encourage disaffection, especially in areas like strongly Catholic Lancashire. There the established church was not popular, to which James specifically refers. Accordingly James declared that no-one was to be prevented from lawful recreation after the end of services – dancing, leaping, vaulting, archery, morris dances, May games, Whitson Ales, May poles and the like were to be freely indulged in. Unlawful games such as bear and bull baiting remained prohibited, as ‘at all time in the meaner sort of people… Bowling’ also the carrying and use of any sort of weapon. Fifteen years later, James’ son Charles I, found that under the pretence of remedying abuses there had been forbidden in some places both secular meetings and ecclesiastical feasts. In the second part of this work Charles reiterates and republishes his father’s declaration, commanding all justices, mayors, constables etc. to implement and obey it or ‘tender our displeasure’. Apart from enlightened social policy Charles’ intervention was covertly to rebuff the Puritans and overtly to convince the Catholics (whom he wished to convert to Anglicanism) that honest mirth and recreation were tolerated in the official religion. A splendid piece of primary social history.

ESTC. S101032. “A reprinting of the proclamation by James I of 24 May 1618, with an endorsement by Charles I dated at end: “Westminster the eighteenth day of October, in the ninth yeere of our reigne.” STC. 9254.7. The variant with headpiece on A4r of a winged woman.


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